There are many aspects to playing defense in baseball. From cleanly catching the ball to making an accurate throw, it is all aimed at retiring the opposing hitter or base-runners so they do not cross home plate and score. One such defensive situation is called a rundown. In a rundown, a base-runner is caught between bases. It is imperative the defense does not let that runner advance to the next base and records the out by tagging the player in the base path.
Standard Rundown Drill
The standard rundown drill gets the players focused on the principles of a rundown. They want to force the player back to the previous base and tag him out before he gets there. Start with a runner in the middle between first and second base. This means the first baseman and second baseman will be the fielders involved in the play. Instruct the runner to run toward second base while the first baseman has the ball. When the runner is about 20 feet from the bag, the second baseman should orally call for the baseball. At that point, it is usually too late for the runner to reverse course. The first baseman should throw the ball to the second baseman, who will apply the tag. You should also instruct the infielders to stand on the inside of the base paths (closer to the mound). This way, if they have to make a throw to another base, they will not be obstructed by the runner.
Rundown Drill Rotation
Many times, several throws are needed in order to catch the runner. This means other players will need to back up the initial fielders in the rundown drill. For instance, if there is a rundown between the first and second baseman, the shortstop and pitcher should back up the second baseman and first baseman, respectively. This means the shortstop and pitcher will assume the rundown positions for those players. At that point, the first and second basemen would return to backing up the players who replaced them in the rundown. The focus on the rotation should be to make sure there is always a new defender ready to receive the ball, while not allowing other runners who may be on base to advance any farther. If other runners are on base, the third baseman and catcher should never leave their posts. Practice rundowns between first and second, second and third and third and home and work out the rotation that makes sense for your team. Because outfielders are not tied to any base, but are close to first, second and third base, they also make great backup players.
Situational Rundown Drills
It is common for an opposing team that has less than two outs to try to start a rundown with a player on first or second base so a player standing on third base can score. This is especially true in a close game where one run might win the game. In this case, you want to practice a drill where your players cut off the runner at home. Set the infield normally with runners on first and third. Instruct the runner on first base to "walk off" the bag so he is tempting the defense. (Many times, this occurs while the pitcher is holding the ball.) Instruct your pitcher to run directly at the player between first and second base. At this point, instruct the player on third base to break for home. The pitcher should throw to the catcher, while the first baseman breaks toward the plate to back up the catcher. (The right-fielder will then take the place of the first baseman should the play return between first and second base.) The shortstop will break to third base to back up that position. The catcher should either apply the tag upon receiving the ball or run the player back toward third base. The other variation on this play is the pitcher simply allows the runner on second to advance and moves toward the runner on third base to make sure the runner does not break for home. Have your team practice this several times so that it is ready for game play.
- Photo Credit baseball image by Tomasz Plawski from Fotolia.com
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